Advocacy Through Media

May 29, 2012


Rita Legris is a senior citizen who doesn’t ask for much from the world. In fact, besides the basic necessities of life, all she really wants is some companionship and the occasional drive to a doctor’s appointment or the grocery store. Thanks to ITNOrlando, she gets both.

What is ITNOrlando and why should you care? Funny you should ask because those are the exact questions Assistant Professor of Critical Media and Cultural Studies (CMC) Ted Gournelos and his students set out to answer when they created the non-profit’s fundraising video during this spring’s advanced video production class.

“It all started in my Media, Peace, and Justice class last semester, when I had eight groups of students make short films for local community organizations,” said Gournelos. “ITNOrlando, a non-profit that provides transportation to seniors, was one we didn't get to work with, but the executive director stayed in contact with me throughout the winter, and I really felt the it was a worthy and underrepresented cause.”

As the spring semester approached, Gournelos reached out to his students to gauge interest in an independent study focused on creating a promotional video for

"Making a film is great, but making a film that can help the community is even more rewarding.”

ITNOrlando. “The response was much larger than I'd anticipated; six students generously volunteered to do it, and two of those were graduating seniors.” With Dean of the College of Arts & Sciences Robert Smither’s blessing, Gournelos created the course around the project and he began meeting regularly with the group.

Under Gournelos’s tutelage, the six students started interviewing members of the ITNOrlando community including volunteer drivers, seniors who use the service, and the executive director, Kimber Threet, and then edited the footage into one cohesive, seven-minute piece.

“Every year, we do a promotional video designed to spotlight what we have done, share our mission, and drive giving,” said Threet. “The videos are created to do three main things: inform, engage, and move our supporters to tears. The Rollins video did this and more. People at our fundraiser told us it made it almost impossible not to write a check.”

The key to the video’s success, Threet believes, was the way the students were able to personally connect with the mission of ITNOrlando and convey heartfelt emotion on the screen. That connection, according to Alison Sweeney ’12, was genuine. “We had such a good time getting to know the clients, drivers, and staff of ITNOrlando,” said Sweeney. “Community engagement is a huge part of the Rollins community, and my community engagement classes help me to feel more connected with the Winter Park community.”

Victoria Viteri ’13 agreed. “Going into it, I just thought it would be a simple film to make, but I actually made connections with the people I interviewed and chatted with and I felt for them,” she said. “I don't think any of us went into this project and thought that we would be so connected with our interviewees' stories. It was so nice that we were able to share their emotions with the broader community and raise money for such a great company that not many people realize exists. Making a film is great, but making a film that can help the community is even more rewarding.”

The monetary impact of the video is difficult to measure, but Threet says it was definitely responsible for raising funds and solidifying new community partners. “At the very least, the video deeply touched the board members, staff, clients, and volunteers at their annual meeting. I've been told there wasn't a dry eye in the house,” Gournelos reported. “But it also has changed the way these students understand the relevance of their critical and theoretical work in CMC when combined with the ability to really advocate for a cause through media.”

By Kristen Manieri

Office of Marketing & Communications
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Copyright © 2012 Rollins College, 1000 Holt Ave., Winter Park, FL 32789  407.646.2000

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